By KEVIN WISER
Express Staff Writer
Blaine County Commissioners set a final budget Monday for the fiscal
year 1999/2000 at $11,929,138, but left open an option to lower this figure due to a
protest of a proposed increase in the prosecuting attorneys budget.
The prosecuting attorneys office was allocated a budget of
$370,066 last year. Prosecuting Attorney Doug Werth proposed this year that this figure be
increased to $424,785 in order to fund the hiring of a third deputy prosecutor.
During public comment at yesterdays hearing, Hailey attorney
Keith Roark said he and his associates, Doug Nelson and Jim Phillips, were perplexed about
the rationale behind the hiring of a third deputy.
"This is an unholy, unwarranted increase in budget," Roark
said in light of the case load handled by the prosecuting attorneys office.
Roark said he was concerned that three years ago the board approved a
request by Werth to have misdemeanor cases handled outside his office. Roark said that for
the past three years misdemeanor cases had been handled on a private contract basis. He
said that now Werth wants to change the system so that the prosecuting attorneys
office will again prosecute misdemeanor offenses, requiring the hiring of a third deputy.
"My concern is not with weakening the prosecuting attorneys
office," Roark said. "Its important to the public welfare to have the best
office the county can afford."
After referring to instances in which Werth allegedly mishandled the
resources of the prosecuting attorneys office, Roark said, "Im not here
to criticize Doug Werth, but I can say that in my mind he is truly incompetent in running
that office whether he has one deputy or three."
Roark said that Werth was performing a disservice to the tax payers of
Blaine County by hiring a third deputy.
"Werth has demonstrated he cannot run the prosecuting
attorneys office, and to ask taxpayers to subsidize his incompetence is a
mistake," Roark told the board.
Nelson added to Roarks argument that Blaine County has half the
crime rate and twice the deputies in the prosecuting attorneys office as other
counties in Idaho.
Werth was not present at Mondays hearing. Commissioner Harlig
said that the prosecuting attorney should have the opportunity to respond to public
comments made during the budget hearing before the board makes a final decision regarding
In an interview following the budget hearing, Werth responded to the
charges raised against him.
He said it had been over 10 years since the county added a deputy to
the prosecuting attorneys office.
Second, Werth said, the number of civil issues involved in Blaine
County far surpasses that of any other county of equivalent size in Idaho.
"You cant compare legal issues and litigation in other
counties on planning and zoning and civil issues with Blaine County," he said.
"Comparing Blaine County to other rural counties is like comparing apples to
Werth said that the third deputy will primarily handle civil cases that
have resulted from numerous lawsuits filed against the county involving planning and
Responding to charges that his office is changing the system by taking
on misdemeanor prosecutions, Werth said that Hailey requested to have his office handle
the citys misdemeanor prosecutions.
Werth said that under state statute, county prosecutors are not
required to prosecute city misdemeanors and that in smaller jurisdictions throughout the
state, cities have to contract with the county prosecutors office or private
attorneys to prosecute misdemeanor cases.
Werth said his office agreed to contract with the city of Hailey to
prosecute its misdemeanor cases for $27,000, which is less than what private attorneys
would contract the services for. Werth added that the money will go back to the county
rather than to private attorneys.
"The only reason I indicated a willingness to prosecute Hailey
citys misdemeanors is because of the number of police officers that requested that
my office handle their cases," Werth said. "The bottom line is Hailey will get
better legal services for less money."
Werth said that many inefficiencies result from having misdemeanor
cases split up and prosecutions handled by more than one agency.
The commission will hold a special meeting to discuss the budget for
the prosecuting attorneys office and also to discuss the countys public
defender contract tomorrow at 2 p.m. at the old Blaine County Courthouse.